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|Before the actual beginning of the Divine Liturgy, the priest enters the Church with special prayers (photo #1), and puts on his liturgical vestments(photos #2-6).
#1: Read before the Royal Doors
#2: The Sticharion
represents the Baptismal Garment
|#3: The Stole or Epitrachilion
represents the dignity of the office of Priest
|#4: The Belt or “Zone”
represents the wisdom and strength of the office of Priest
|#5: The Cuffs or “Epimanikia”
represents the reminder that the Priest is tied against sin
represents the Priest putting on the gifts of the Holy Spirit
|#7: A Priest Fully Vested
|#8: The Priest washes his hands before beginning any of the sacred functions of the Divine Liturgy
|He then goes to the table of oblation to prepare the bread and wine for Holy Communion. This part of the liturgy is called the prothesis or proskomedia which means preparation.
|The Diskos (L) and Chalice (R) before the start of the Proskomedia
|In its present form, the prothesis probably dates from the fourteenth century. When a bishop is celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the prothesis is performed just before the offertory procession called the Great Entrance. Otherwise it is done before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word.
At the prothesis the priest first cuts a large cube of bread from the loaf of bread, traditionally called the prosphora, which means the offering. This cube of bread is called the Lamb. It stands for Christ, the “Bread of life… which came down from heaven,” the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 3:24, 6:32-15).
|The prothesis begins.
|While the priest is cutting the Lamb from the prosphora bread, he recites verses from the Prophecy of Isaiah: He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. …(Isa 53:7-8). He cuts the Lamb so that the seal with which the prosphora bread is sealed, is on the top, in the center. The seal is a square with the symbols of Jesus Christ (IC XC) on the top and The Victor (NI KA) on the bottom. The Lamb is then cut from the bottom in the sign of a cross so that it can be easily broken into four pieces at the time of Holy Communion in the liturgy. The priest also symbolically pierces the side of the Lamb with the liturgical knife, traditionally called the spear, reciting the words of John 19:34-35.
|The wine and water are poured into the Chalice
|The next prosphora is blessed
|After having poured wine mixed with water into the chalice, the priest then places a piece of bread on the diskos next to the Lamb in remembrance of the Theotokos.
|The Lamb and the portion of bread for the Theotokos, the Mother of God
|Then pieces of bread are placed on the diskos in memory of John the Baptist, the prophets, apostles, hierarchs, martyrs, monastic saints, healers, and the whole company of the righteous with special mention of the saints commemorated on that particular day. Finally a piece of bread is placed on the diskos in memory of the saint whose liturgy is being celebrated.
|The particles of bread are taken from the prosphora
|And placed on the Diskos
|In addition, pieces of bread are placed on the diskos for the bishop of the given church, for the civil authorities of the country and for all of the faithful both living and dead, once more with particular mention by name of those particularly remembered by the local community.
|Names of the living and the dead are given to the Priest for commemoration during the prothesis
|The commemorations are completed
|The diskos and the chalice are then covered with special covers.
|Individual covers are placed over both the Diskos and Chalice
|While the priest recites Psalm 93 and other psalm verses, an offering of incense is given over the gifts.
|Finally, the Aer is placed over both the Chalice and Diskos and Incenseis offered over the Holy Gifts as the Priest reads the prayers
|He finally recites in conclusion the following prayer:
O God, our God, who didst send the Heavenly Bread, the Food of the whole world, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour, Redeemer and Benefactor, blessing and sanctifying us; Bless this offering, and accept it upon Thy heavenly altar. Remember those who offer it and for whom it is offered, for Thou art good and lovest mankind. Preserve us blameless in the celebration of Thy divine mysteries. For sanctified and glorified is Thy most honorable and majestic name; of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
The small dismissal and benediction follow this prayer, thus ending the service of the prothesis.
The prothesis is a rather late development in the history of the Divine Liturgy. It signifies the gathering of the entire Church of God into one great assembly: Christ the Head, together with the Theotokos and all the members of his Body, those already glorified with him in the presence of the Father, together with all of the faithful disciples on earth. The prothesis clearly shows that the eucharistic liturgy is always the action of the entire Church, with its head Jesus Christ, and is always offered “on behalf of all and for all.”